The Heritage Foundation

Factsheet #150

August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014 | Factsheet on

Respecting Conscience Rights of Adoption and Foster Care Providers

Foster Care and Adoption Policy Should Put the Best Interests of Children First

  • Roughly 400,000 children spend time in the U.S. foster care system every year, about 100,000 of them seeking adoption into a loving family. Many of these children bounce from home to home, never adopted, and enter adult life without the emotional, relational, and financial support structure of a loving, permanent family.
  • There are more than 1,000 private, licensed foster care and adoption providers in the U.S., including many faith-based agencies.
  • In 2007, private providers handled 20,000 of the 76,000 domestic adoptions by non-relatives in the United States. While public agencies continue to provide the largest number of domestic adoptions, private and faith-based organizations help to increase the number of children who find permanent homes every year.

Policy Should Respect Freedom and Encourage Diversity

  • Put children first in foster care policy by removing barriers to families that are seeking to adopt and providers that are seeking to place children in need of a home.
  • Provide freedom to the diverse groups that serve the needs of children: freedom to maintain licensing, recruit potential adoptive families, and find permanent, loving homes for vulnerable children.
  • Allow private child welfare providers that meet basic requirements protecting the welfare of children to operate according to their values, especially their religiously informed beliefs about marriage.

Freedom of Private Adoption Providers Threatened

  • Policies in a number of states are threatening the freedom of private and faith-based providers to abide by their religious and moral beliefs while continuing to meet the needs of children, parents, and communities effectively. In Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., faith-based agencies have been forced to end their adoption and foster care programs to avoid abandoning their commitment to place children with a married mother and father.

Religious Liberty Takes Nothing Away

  • Protecting the conscience rights and religious liberty of private adoption providers takes nothing away from others. Not every private provider needs to perform every service—and state-run agencies can provide a complete array of services. Protecting the diversity of private providers and their ability to operate according to their values—and with families that share those values—to make it more likely that the greatest possible number of children will be connected with permanent, loving families.

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act

  • Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) have introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, that would prohibit the federal government and states receiving certain federal child welfare funds from discriminating against a child welfare provider simply because the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with their religious or moral convictions.

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